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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Premiership, Arsenal 2-1 Reading

Gunners back to winning ways
Arsenal moved to within one point of third-placed Liverpool with a deserved but, at the end, nervous victory. Cesc Fabregas mis-kicked in front of an open goal but Gilberto Silva put Arsenal in front from the penalty spot after Andre Bikey fouled Gael Clinchy.

This was a worthy victory for Arsenal, yet the afternoon began with Arsenal team in their default setting of seething frustration, dominating possession but struggling to expose chinks in a tightly-packed defence.

Shorn of Emmanuel Adebayor and Thierry Henry, their finishing was painfully profligate, with Cesc Fabregas the biggest culprit. Barely a minute had passed when the Spaniard was set up by Alexander Hleb, but his touch deserted him and Andre Bikey raced back to whip the ball from his toes. Then, in the 29th minute, Fabregas missed a chance that will give him sleepless nights for weeks to come. After James Harper failed to clear a loose ball, Baptista seized possession and squared to Fabregas four yards out. The 19-year-old swung his right boot but missed his shot entirely, the ball bouncing off his standing leg before bobbling clear.

In the 50th minute, Bikey, desperately attempting to keep up with the livewire Denilson, appeared to pull back at Denilson's shirt before becoming entangled with his legs. It was enough to convince Chris Foy, the referee, to award a penalty which Gilberto converted with surgical precision.

A second goal seemed inevitable and it duly arrived in the 61st minute. After a Reading corner had fizzled out, Arsenal streaked downfield at breakneck speed: Denilson slipped a pass to Baptista, who barged past Graeme Murty before toe-poking into the bottom corner.

With the game seemingly over, Reading woke up. Steve Sidwell headed over from a corner and then shot wastefully wide from close range, before Fabregas diverted a corner into his own net.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger:
"We could have done better, we looked a bit shaky at 2-1.

"We missed a few chances in the second half because we were slow to make important decisions.

"Reading were positive and dangerous and played in an intelligent way. They are one of the few teams that have come here and tried to play."

Reading boss Steve Coppell:
"We had opportunities, but credit to Arsenal - they were very, very patient and when they are in front they play with a different tempo.

"They controlled possession for long periods but we responded to that and played a full part in the game.

"We now have 14 days without a game. We can take stock and recharge out batteries, which is important."

Arsenal: Lehmann, Djourou, Gallas, Silva, Clichy, Ljungberg (Diaby 70), Fabregas, Denilson, Hleb (Senderos 86), Walcott (Aliadiere 71), Julio Baptista.
Subs Not Used: Almunia, Traore.

Booked: Senderos.

Goals: Silva 51 pen, Julio Baptista 62.

Reading: Hahnemann, Murty, Ingimarsson, Bikey, Shorey, Little (Doyle 80), Sidwell, Harper (Gunnarsson 71), Hunt (Oster 65), Kitson, Lita.
Subs Not Used: Federici, Duberry.

Booked: Kitson.

Goals: Fabregas (87 og).

Premier League, Arsenal 2-1 Reading Full highlights and goals: